Mexican visitor has a story to tell about the helpful Mountie

Coquitlam resident Karla Mena, her son Diego and her father, Jose, were in a car accident along the Lougheed Highway near Colony Farm on May 14. Jose suffered a broken hip and nose. - COURTESY OF KARLA MENA
Coquitlam resident Karla Mena, her son Diego and her father, Jose, were in a car accident along the Lougheed Highway near Colony Farm on May 14. Jose suffered a broken hip and nose.
— image credit: COURTESY OF KARLA MENA

A plastic surgeon who was visiting Canada to see his grandson for the first time will return to his native Mexico recovering from a broken nose, a busted hip and a story about generosity thanks to that most Canadian of icons: a Mountie.

Jose Mena, 59, of Morelia, Mexico, was only expected to be in Canada for a week when he was in a car accident on Lougheed Highway, near Colony Farm, on May 14. His 28-year-old daughter, Karla, was driving home to Coquitlam from Vancouver at around 11:30 p.m. with her dad and three-month-old son, Diego, in the back seat.

When her Chevrolet Equinox van suddenly went off the road and into a ditch, Jose Mena tried to shield his grandson from the impact but was injured.

"I don't really remember what happened before that," Karla Mena told The Tri-City News yesterday, "but when I opened my eyes, we were in a ditch and couldn't get out."

The three managed to escape through the sun roof and call 911. Emergency personnel arrived soon afterward to take them to Royal Columbian Hospital.

Coquitlam RCMP Const. Raj Uppal, who was on general duty, said he saw Karla Mena beside the vehicle holding her baby, who had his grandfather's blood on his sleeper. "It was pretty scary to see something like that," said Uppal, a father of young children.

Later, at the hospital, Uppal asked staff to look for a replacement baby car seat as he knew the parents would likely need one to transport their son to the doctor's office the next day for a check-up. He also instructed them to call him if no replacement seat was found.

At around 3 a.m., Mena's husband rang Uppal to inform him about the car seat situation: None could be located at RCH. Uppal radioed for help from other police officers and victim services workers but nobody had a car seat handy.

Uppal then checked with two Coquitlam stores before stopping at the Real Canadian Superstore in the Westwood Mall. To gain attention from the employees who were working inside the closed grocery store, Uppal turned on his police car lights and identified himself.

When Uppal explained the emergency, they led him to the aisle and helped him pick a car seat. Uppal promised he would return in the morning to pay as the tills had been shut down for the night.

Within the hour, Uppal was at RCH to deliver the new car seat for Diego.

Karla Mena said Uppal went above his call of duty. "He was amazing from the very first moment when he saw the baby," she said. "He walked into the hospital and said, 'Here's a gift from me to you guys.' That was very, very meaningful for us because we were going through a tough time."

Best of all, when Uppal phoned Real Canadian Superstore that morning to praise the employees, the manager waived the $150 bill.

"It's all good," she told Uppal, who added, "The staff really went out on a limb to help us out."

As for Jose Mena, he went into surgery that morning and his trip has been extended until he gets the all-clear from therapists, his daughter said.

While emergency personnel were kind to her family that night, Karla said she's especially grateful to Uppal and her dad who "risked his life to save my son's."


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